UN abortion ruling is ‘not binding’, Enda Kenny says

Taoiseach warns against an immediate attempt to repeal the Eighth Amendment

The Government is shortly to begin the process which may lead to a change in Ireland’s abortion laws, although Taoiseach Enda Kenny has warned any immediate attempt to reverse the constitutional ban would be defeated.

Mr Kenny will bring a memorandum to Government next week proposing the establishment of a citizens' assembly to consider the abortion issue.

However, Government sources said the process would move slowly in an attempt to achieve “consensus” on what, if any, changes should be made.

Mr Kenny yesterday said a recent adverse finding by the UN Human Rights Committee about Ireland's abortion laws was "non-binding" and "not like the European Court".


The committee last week found that a woman carrying a foetus with a fatal abnormality had been subjected to discrimination and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment due to the ban on abortion.

It called for the prohibition to be reversed to allow women to voluntarily terminate a pregnancy safely.

Mr Kenny said: "The UN committee's verdict in this sensitive and distressing case is non-binding. It is not like the European Court. "

Patience and caution

In response to calls in the Dáil for an immediate referendum on abortion, Mr Kenny urged patience and caution in addressing the issue.

"My view is that if we were to decide to have a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment in October, it would not be passed," he said.

The Eighth Amendment, which was approved in a referendum in 1983, acknowledges the right to life of the unborn, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother.

A Government spokesman last night stressed there was no question of appealing the UN committee’s ruling as it was non-binding.

The State would respond to the committee’s finding, he said, within the 180- day deadline.

Mr Kenny said the citizens’ assembly would consider the future of the Eighth Amendment.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times